The ultimate brewing and fermentation guide

Making sourdough bread from scratch involves creating and maintaining a sourdough starter, which is a fermented mixture of flour and water. It’s simple and fun to do, although as with other fermentation projects such as water kefir and kombucha, you will need to listen to your starter and adjust conditions, which is a learning process. You will hone your skills with practice, and making mistakes along the way is par for the course.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to make sourdough bread at home, starting with making your own sourdough starter:

Creating a Sourdough Starter:

Ingredients:
  • Whole wheat or rye flour
  • Water (preferably filtered)
Instructions:

Day 1:

  1. In a clean glass jar or container, combine 50 grams of whole wheat or rye flour with 50 grams of water.
  2. Stir well to thoroughly mix the flour and water.
  3. Cover the jar loosely with a clean cloth or plastic wrap, allowing airflow.
  4. Let the mixture sit at room temperature (around 70°F or 21°C) for 24 hours.

Day 2:

  1. Discard approximately half of the mixture in the jar (or transfer it to another container to use in another recipe).
  2. Add 50 grams of whole wheat or rye flour and 50 grams of water to the jar.
  3. Stir well to combine and cover loosely.
  4. Let it sit at room temperature for another 24 hours.

Day 3 and onward:

  1. Repeat the process of discarding half of the mixture and feeding it with 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water daily.
  2. Stir well, cover loosely, and allow it to sit at room temperature.
  3. You should start seeing signs of fermentation, such as bubbles and a tangy aroma, after a few days. This indicates that your starter is developing.

A step-by-step guide on how to make sourdough bread using the starter you just made:

Once you have a mature and active sourdough starter, you can use it to make sourdough bread.

Ingredients:
  • 400 grams of bread flour
  • 100 grams of whole wheat flour (or other flours)
  • 300 grams of active sourdough starter
  • 10 grams of salt
  • 300 grams of water
Instructions:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour, whole wheat flour, and salt. Mix well.
  2. Add the active sourdough starter and water to the bowl.
  3. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon or your hands until a shaggy dough forms.
  4. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This step, called autolyse, allows the flour to fully hydrate and improves gluten development.
  5. Perform a series of “stretch and fold” techniques to develop the gluten. To do this, take a portion of the dough from the edge, stretch it upward, and fold it over the center. Rotate the bowl and repeat this process several times, covering all sides of the dough.
  6. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for bulk fermentation. The duration of bulk fermentation can vary but generally lasts around 3-4 hours. During this time, perform additional stretch and folds every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours to strengthen the dough.
  7. After the bulk fermentation, the dough should have increased in volume and have a bubbly texture. Carefully turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
  8. Gently shape the dough into a round or oval shape, being careful not to deflate it too much. You can use the “preshape and bench rest” technique, where you lightly shape the dough into a round, let it rest for 20-30 minutes, and then do a final shaping.
  9. Place the shaped dough into a well-floured proofing basket or a bowl lined with a clean cloth, seam side up. This step helps the dough hold its shape during the final proofing.
  10. Cover the dough with a clean cloth or place it in a plastic bag to prevent it from drying out. Let it proof at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or until it has visibly risen and feels airy to the touch. Alternatively, you can proof the dough in the refrigerator overnight for a longer fermentation and enhanced flavor development.
  11. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C) with a Dutch oven or a baking stone inside. This ensures that the oven and baking vessel are adequately heated.
  12. Carefully transfer the proofed dough onto a piece of parchment paper.
  13. Score the top of the dough with a sharp knife or razor blade to allow for controlled expansion during baking. You can make a single slash, a cross, or any pattern you prefer.
  14. Carefully place the dough, along with the parchment paper, into the preheated Dutch oven or onto the baking stone.
  15. Cover the Dutch oven with its lid or create a steam environment in the oven by spraying water onto the sides or using a pan filled with boiling water.
  16. Bake the bread covered for 20 minutes to create steam and promote a good rise. Then, remove the lid or steam source and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, or until the bread is deep golden brown and has a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
  17. Once baked, remove the bread from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack before slicing. It’s best to wait at least 1 hour if you can handle waiting that long!
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